A2B: 2 Ways to Engage in Our New Series at Kfirst

Life isn’t about destinations.  It’s about the journey. The journey helps us move from where we are today (A) to where God wants us to be (B).  We like to start endeavors. We like to complete them.  It’s the journey in between that we don’t look forward to.  Many times, the process from A to B is the struggle but it’s where the metal of our lives is made.

In order to move from A to B we have to trust our journey to God’s path. We need to trust His direction.  We have to trust He is there even when we don’t see it. We have to trust that what He is doing after Point A  may be more valuable than arriving at Point B. Because A to B is about the process:

It starts today

It starts in Him

And it starts with you.

Two things we’re asking you to do: 

1. Invite someone out to our series.  Everyone is on a journey.  What better way to impact someone’s journey than to invite them to come out and encounter the love of God in our church community.

2. Get involved in a A2B Group.  Find 2-3 people and commit to connecting once a week during the series.  Get together with friends and possibly find someone new. It doesn’t matter if it’s more than 2-3, what matters is the connection.  Do coffee.  Do lunch.  Don’t even worry about what to talk about because we’ll give you the questions to ask.  Just be dedicated to connection and watch God work in your life as you engage in community with one another.  We’ll provide you with a “A2B Card” to help be a reminder for ya of where and when your group decided to meet.

I love pastoring Kfirst and I can’t wait for the start of our A2B journey together.  I believe God is going to do amazing things.

A “Yesterday Marriage”: 5 ways to help your marriage to not live off of re-runs.

Of all of our differences, Anne and I don’t really walk in agreement with the concept of re-runs.  We both love shows and enjoy watching them together.  But re-runs are a different story. I can only think of one show series in the past 17 years of marriage in which she’ll entertain the re-runs. But other than that, she watches a show and moves on.  I am her polar opposite.  I thrive on re-runs.  M*A*S*H, The West Wing, Taxi, and Whose Line are just a few I can’t get enough of (not to mention I’ll watch old football games…she totally doesn’t get that).  I love the nostalgia of it as well as the opportunity of passing great shows onto my kids.  Cammi loves a few of them (Saved by the Bell, Cosby Show).  Ethan shot down most of them after 5 minutes of the first episode. (Macgyver, A-Team, Battlestar Galactica).

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Re-runs take you back in time (without a flux capacitor).  Even just hearing theme songs, you can picture yourself in another time and place.  Things seemed much simpler…less complicated. They can even provide you with a sense of security.  Unfortunately, instead of enjoying the reflective nature of nostalgia, we tend to make it a place to live.  

This is a dangerous place for marriages.  I call them “Yesterday Marriages.” They are couples where someone (or both spouses) are living in the past.  They have the inability to move forward because they are living off of the re-runs of their marriage.  You can’t change your marriage living on re-runs. 

5 ways to help your marriage to not live off re-runs: 

1. Drop your subscription to unhealthy storylines.  Anne and I are Hulu and Netflix people (this blog isn’t sponsored by either).  The reason we subscribe to them is they provide us with the entertainment we desire.  Some of you are subscribed to attitudes that are unhealthy to your marriage. By “subscribe,” I mean you know you are doing it but do nothing about it.  Lack of action is an action in of itself.  It means you are welcoming it. Bitterness, negativity, ingratitude, and the like are attitudes that are designed corrode any sibilance of joy in your marriage. They’ll create storylines that are unnecessary.  Drop your subscription to that storyline and move on. 

2. Know your ratings; check your emotions. I’m an emotional guy and I believe that feelings are important. To have emotions proclaims our humanity. Yet, like anything in life, we are called to be stewards of our emotions.  A few weeks ago, I challenged our congregation to do exactly what the Psalmist does in Psalms 42: question your emotions. He questions his emotions 3 times.  Why? We base truth by how we feel.  I know this doesn’t apply to you, but my emotions change daily. I can be (not all the time) irrational.  If truth is how we feel, then truth shifts and changes based upon whether we had coffee, had sex with our spouse, or our NCAA bracket is going okay. Call your emotions into question and base truth upon who Christ is.  We are to bring truth to our marriage rather than allowing feelings/circumstances to dictate truth to us.

3. Shut off the drama.  We were meant to live in community/relationships. I believe God moves in community.  But that which God uses, Satan perverts. People that crave drama love to create it and feed it.  They’re easy to identify.  Look at what they post on social media. Look at what they reference whenever they contact you to you.  If they’re poking at your past and/or asking about business that isn’t theirs to know or be involved with, then they’re trying to get you to entertain “re-runs.”  Get some boundaries with them.  Draw some lines and shut off the drama.  They’re not propelling you towards health.  They are an anchor to you moving forward. 

4. Cancel the series.  Anne and I have mourned the cancellation of certain series (Jericho is one that comes to mind).  If you’re entertaining unhealthy thoughts of the past, then it’s time to stop subscribing to them.  It’s a choice.  Don’t tell me it’s not.  You may not be able to stop the thought from popping up in your head but you DO have a choice on how long that thought lingers. Lust, unforgiveness, comparing marriage, fantasies about having a different spouse are all networks that have not right being in your head feeding re-runs of what life “could have been.” Shut them down. Cancel the series.

5. New episodes cannot happen without new material.  You can’t develop anything new if you don’t do anything new. Marriages can’t move on from re-runs if there’s nothing new to work with.  Memories are created with opportunities.  Some of the reasons your marriage might be boring is, well, you are boring.  Get out and do something.  It doesn’t have to cost anything.  Anne and I enjoy taking walks (zero cost) and talking about our day (zero cost).  We love sitting on our bed watching shows together ($7.99 a month). New material for new memories doesn’t take much money if all, but it  Take a drive. Get some ice cream.  Be simple but creative.  Your spouse would rather you fail trying than fail to try.  Make time.  Your spouse is worth it. 

You can’t change the your world on re-runs.  It’s time to move forward.  Most people are looking for the fresh start because, in their mind, it’s the only place to start.  Instead of thinking you need a new spouse for a new start, start with a new you for your present spouse.  

Living on “re-runs” places a whole lot of trust in ourselves and in a fantasy world of “what could be.”  There is no promise in that.  But people just cast their marriage aside with empty hope, praying that the next time through will be better.  The problem is: you carry the same “re-run” issues into the next marriage.   1 Corinthians 5:17 says

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

Instead of scrapping your marriage, scrap the old you and put on the new you in Christ.  Instead of placing your trust in you, place your faith in Christ and live life from that place.  What you will discover is the hope that we have in Christ moves our fixation off of us and our past, and places our focus upon who we are in him.  You need a fresh start and a fresh place to work from? Become new in Christ and let him, not your re-runs be the foundation of a new future for your marriage.

Don’t have a “yesterday marriage.” Get out of the past and see the future you two have together in Christ. 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Series Preaching: 5 Reasons I choose to preach in series.

I recognize that this blog won’t apply to a lot of people.  But I have a tremendous heart for pastors.  Also, I know that everyone has their preference in preaching styles whether you are the one delivering the message or you are the listener. I’m not writing to proclaim that my style and/or approach is the best.  But over the past few months, this topic has been asked of me over coffee, text, and social media.  So I thought I’d put out a simple blog together that would share my heart to the approach that I’ve taken with proclaiming the Good News.

Why do I preach in series…because it…  

1. …prevents the “Buffet Effect.” People walk away from the table saying, “I don’t know what I ate but it was good.”  Just my opinion, but I feel this is a travesty to preaching.  We gorge our congregations on so much information with hour+ long sermons.  We give people SO MUCH info that they don’t know what to do with it.  At thanksgiving, the massive meal makes me want to go take a nap.  I’m afraid our long-winded sermons have the same effect.  Old-school peeps walk away feeling great because we just “had church.”  In reality, we are giving so much information that it becomes difficult to digest.  Nobody wants to move after Thanksgiving.  Preaching should move us to response. My preaching philosophy: give smaller portions as to make sure the word is received, understood, digested, and able to facilitate growth.

2. …helps identify the “veins” that run through scripture.  I love the word.  It is a part of my daily life.  I’m always astounded to see the variety of topics and thoughts carried throughout the entire narrative of scripture.  It’s the method of “series” that can open the eyes of an individual to not just hear about it on Sunday but disciple him/her to read their scripture in the same way.

For example, I’m very passionate about the table practice of Jesus.  To read about those welcomed at His table will transform you and your approach to people. It’s my hope that after preaching about “The Table” (which I’ve done twice), that every time people would see the word “table” in scripture, they’d reflect upon what is being done/accomplished at the table they’re reading about.  2 Samuel 9, David’s heart was to honor his friend Jonathan by reaching out to Mephibosheth.  Where did David place him at?  The king’s table like on of the king’s sons. The table is a place of restoration, kindness, and hope.  Just like the table of Jesus.

3. …brings singularity of focus. This is very similar to #1 but with a bit of a difference.  It helps us long-winded pastors to break the message down to a palatable size.  The additional thing I’d add to it is it helps you take the time to really dive into the nitty-gritty of what the Lord has laid on your heart.  Before “series preaching,” I’d walk away from message bummed I didn’t spend more time on Point #2 or Point #5.  Instead of preaching 4 point messages, I can preach a 4 message series and really bring to focus the things that the Holy Spirit has laid on my heart.

4. …is a chance to make the Word practical. It’s not that I couldn’t do that before.  It’s just that I had so much info that the practics got lost in all the information.  If our people don’t know how to live it, then we are missing the mark.  Series open up the congregation to “come and see” as well as “go and do.”  Series give me the chance to really talk about how what is being talked about “in here” looks “out there.”

5. …it opens up the door for discipleship. So many churches struggle with discipleship.  Perhaps one of the biggest reasons is because pastors think that discipleship is accomplished by an hour+ long sermon.  Think of the variety of generations of people who come out to a service from a multiplicity of backgrounds, with varied spiritual depths.  It’s a challenge enough to speak to everybody, let alone think that we can completely disciples everyone in the room.  I won’t say that levels of discipleship don’t happen.  But your Sunday AM (or Saturday PM), can’t be your sole discipleship time.  Series can really be a plus to your discipleship communities (small groups, one-on-one discipleship, etc) by giving them a focal point to go deeper.  If the series is on evangelism, your discipleship communities can take the message/series to a deeper place through conversation, community study, and coffee (which I think is always a necessary part of discipleship).

Again, it’s not about twisting your arm to do what fits me.  This is my answer to the question that’s ben asked and it’s the method that has worked for me as a pastor.  It’s what I enjoy.  BUT…I remember what Rick Warren tweeted out about 5 years ago:

Anyone that us unwilling to break their series to deal with a church issue is a slave to their method.

We are servants of Christ and not a method.  We proclaim Him and His Kingdom and not our empire.

In whatever method you use, proclaim Jesus with passion and conviction and watch Him change lives.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

“Warning: Choking Hazard” New series starting @kalamazoofirst

As a kid, the idea of choking frightened me.  If you’ve never choked on anything, you’ve never felt the sheer panic of fighting to regain the breath of life that we take so for granted.  Just one act of “choking” will have you monitoring the size of food going into your mouth and the amount of times you chew your food.  That single act of “choking” will so traumatized you that as a parent, you’ll fight to make sure your children NEVER experience the terror of choking and the deadly ramification that can come from it.

On most toys containing small parts, you’ll read a warning label:

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It’s there for a simple reason: to caution parents that have little ones that there are objects within your purchase that are a choking hazard for your child.  You’re little ones have a nature to take what is given to them and place it in their mouths regardless of the nutritional value.  We give them a bit of grace because, hey, they’re so young and innocent that they cannot possibly know better. 

That nature still lies in all of us.  If we’re not careful, we will taking and consume what life gives to us with no thought or prayer behind it.  Life is full of choking hazards.  Jesus talks about them in Matthew 13 in the “Parable of the Sower.” It is in verse 22 where he says, 

As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches CHOKE the word, and it proves unfruitful.

This is the “warning label” of life.  This is the label we forget about as we go into life thinking “Hey, I’m a believer.  I’m going to heaven and I don’t need to worry about anything else.” and we don’t even realize that life is FULL of choking hazards.   Jobs, marriage, family, church…there’s nothing wrong with these wonderful opportunities.  They’re a part of life.  But, like anything, they’re going to be filled with choking hazards.  

This is what our message series is about at Kfirst.  

Life is tough to consume.  Like a child, we blindly devour our heavy schedules along with the tough (normal) seasons of life that naturally comes.  We read scriptures like John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…” and we don’t realize that one of the ways “The Thief/Devil” wants to kill is by you CHOKING on life itself.  He wants to stifle your life with every care of this world so that your life is completely unfruitful

It’s time to reclaim the breathe that the cares of this world have been choking off.  It’s time to learn that as much as life is filled with “choking hazards”, we can be a people who, according to Matthew 13, who hears the word, understands it, and has a life that bears fruit.  After all, Jesus says in the other half of John 10:10, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Join us this Sunday at 10am as we bring some exposure to some of these “choking hazards” and help people breathe deeply and freely in their walk with Christ.   

Thanks for letting me ramble…